Dan Bonner, a CPA with Treadway, Henion and Kerr, is the president of Main Street Steamboat Inc. Bonner chatted with Steamboatpilot.com Friday about Main Street initiatives.
Q: Main Street Steamboat recently talked about seeking a Business Improvement District for the downtown area to help pay for improvements. How would the district work?
Bonner: The downtown Business Improvement District has been proposed to expand on the programs initiated by Main Street Steamboat Springs. The District will raise money through property taxes on commercial property within District. Spending those funds on downtown projects would be overseen by a Board of Directors, comprised of business and property owners within the district boundaries.
Q: How close is Main Street Steamboat to pursuing a Business Improvement District and what kind of tax is being talked about?
Bonner: Main Street has proposed the BID, and is currently educating the stakeholders through a series of focus groups and educational meetings. We are gathering feedback during this process to see what types of services are wanted, and what the interest level is in the BID. If the downtown merchants and property owners support the concept, then we would expect to see the BID formed by early summer. Any taxation of course, would have to be approved at a November election and would become effective in 2008. Currently we are proposing a mil levy in the range of 4 to 6 mils.
Q: If there were a Business Improvement District, what improvements would be Main Street Steamboat's top priority?
Bonner: The priorities will be determined by those who will pay the tax. A major focus of our ongoing informational meetings is to find out what types of services are most desired by the stakeholders. Some of the services that have been suggested include parking management, marketing and promotion, street beautification and improved maintenance, particularly with respect to snow and trash removal.
Q: There are five or six major downtown projects under way or scheduled to get under way this summer. Short-term, what will be the impact of all this construction this summer and has Main Street Steamboat discussed ways to mitigate that for visitors?
Bonner: The Main Street Board has been very active on this issue lately. We have met with city planners, developers and contractors in an effort to minimize the impacts from the upcoming construction season. Parking for the construction workers, storing materials and controlling dust and debris are some of the major concerns. Fortunately all parties involved have been very cooperative and sensitive to the issues. That being said, the impacts of several large projects downtown this summer will be significant to residents and visitors alike.
Q: As a CPA and a Realtor specializing in commercial properties, do you have any concerns that our community could soon be overbuilt in the commercial category?
Bonner: What I have observed in our community, and in other communities, is that the supply and demand for commercial property (or residential property) is never in equilibrium. We are about to add a significant amount of commercial retail space to the downtown market, which, for some period of time, will cause that market to be overbuilt. Whether that period is six months or six years is a great question. The answer, to some extent, may well depend on the success of the downtown BID and how well the BID meets the needs of its members.
Q: Main Street Steamboat's Economic Restructuring Committee has had ongoing conversations with city planning staff about the language of a tentative ordinance that might limit chain retail in the downtown core Can you explain why Main Street feels that's a necessary step?
Bonner: The presence of chain retail stores is an issue that concerns many downtowns throughout the country and the Main Street Board has had many lively conversations about this topic. Those in favor of limiting national chains in our downtown want to preserve the uniqueness of locally owned and operated stores. On the other hand, many national chains make great tenants and draw customers to the downtown who will shop in many different stores. Our Economic Restructuring Committee is working on proposed language that would limit the number of national chain stores allowed in downtown Steamboat, without prohibiting them altogether.
Q: A key component of downtown's success is the retail mix. Is there a type of store that Main Street thinks Steamboat needs downtown? If so, how do you recruit such a retailer?
Bonner: This question focuses on many of the objectives of our Economic Restructuring Committee which include maintaining an inventory of downtown businesses, monitoring the retail mix and recruiting new retailers. As a fairly new Main Street organization our focus has been on accurately identifying what we have, and determining how we can provide the most help to the businesses that are already here. To date, we have not pursued the longer-range goals of identifying and recruiting needed businesses.
Q: Look ahead for us. How different will downtown be in 2010 than it is now? What will be the most noticeable changes?
Bonner: The largest change that we'll see in downtown Steamboat is the number of people whom actually live right downtown. The opportunity to live within walking distance of restaurants, shopping, movies, work, etc. is very appealing and will place a larger concentration of people in our downtown. Fortunately the vision of our developers, planners and City Council to include affordable housing in these projects will assure that we'll have an interesting mix of residents living, working and playing in downtown Steamboat.